SA sees no need for new Covid restrictions for now – health minister

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South Africa does not see the need to implement any new Covid-19 restrictions either at home or for arrivals over an infection surge in China and the detection of the first case of Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 locally, its health minister said.

“The dominant variant of concern in China and in the world remains Omicron, and the immunity of South Africans from vaccination and natural immunity is still very strong,” Minister Joe Phaahla told reporters on Tuesday.

This puts us in a better position,” he said.

Phaahla said South Africa had not seen any major increase in its Covid infection, hospitalisation or death rates recently.

It has sought advice from the World Health Organisation and will increase Covid testing and reinvigorate its vaccination campaign in light of rising infections in countries like China and the United States, he added.

Health authorities intend to offer all adults additional Covid vaccine boosters towards the end of January.

So far the country has only confirmed one case of the XBB.1.5 subvariant and there is no evidence that it is spreading, although the subvariant is believed to be highly contagious, Phaahla said.

South Africa has recorded the most Covid infections and deaths on the African continent, at more than 4 million infections and over 102 000 deaths. Initially it battled to secure vaccines as rich countries hoarded the available shots, but it now has large volumes in stock.

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